Active Fatherhood Deemed More Important Than Biological Contribution In Michigan

In a precedent-setting decision, a man from Macomb Township was ruled the father of a boy that he had raised since birth, even after it was discovered that the child was not biologically his offspring. A Macomb County judge ruled that the 40-year-old man would continue to have joint custody of the 5-year-old boy whom he had raised with his wife, whom he had divorced in 2011 — and the State Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

The biological father was a 48-year-old with whom the woman had an affair — after the divorce, she married him. When they determined that the 48-year-old was the biological father, they requested full custody of the child.

“This is a huge victory,” said Rene Gucciardo, the Macomb Township man’s attorney. “My client was so ecstatic. To be recognized as the child’s father has given my client a great deal of peace.”

The case reveals an interesting area of the Revocation of Paternity Act of 2012 (RPA), which was designed to expand biological fathers’ rights. In order to sever a presumed father’s parental rights, the presumed father must acknowledge the paternity of the biological father — but in this case, the Macomb County man never did.

According to the Court of Appeals, the presumed father “questioned his own paternity,” but never acknowledged any other man as the father. Because the RPA insists on “mutual and open acknowledgement” of the biological father by both the mother and presumed father, the RPA’s severance clause didn’t apply.  “It was not enough that (the biological father) and the mother acknowledged the relationship. Plaintiff also has to acknowledge it, but refused to do so,” wrote the Court of Appeals.

Guiccardo insists that, despite some suspicions, the presumed father assumed that the child was his own until told otherwise. The mother also believed that the child belonged to the ex-husband until she noticed the resemblance with her new husband and ordered a paternity test.

The Macomb Township many, via his attorney, put it simply: “I am (the boy’s) father. End of story.”

“[The presumed father] played with him. He comforted him,” Gucciardo told The Macomb Daily. “There is such an incredible bond. He sees him every day…[the biological father] “was not there,” she said.

The Court of Appeals (and the judge for the original motion) denied the severance of parenthood motion citing the child’s best interests.

 

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